Today’s Colts notebook is a veritable grab bag of football quotes. We’ll discuss everything from team chemistry to Jason Collins and the NFL’s proposed HGH testing. We should be able to return to the subject of the newly drafted rookies tomorrow.
It is early in the NFL year. The men who play football for a living are getting back into the grind, back to the structured world of the NFL, back to 10-11 hour workdays and a job in which their best and worst moments are on full display on Sundays. But how do they feel about these early workouts and meetings, nearly three months before Training Camp? “I would say this is very critical,” said OLB Robert Mathis. “It builds a team’s chemistry. Also, it’s very important getting to know the type of team you have. We have the majority of the guys here and it’s beneficial to our success.”
Punter Pat McAfee echoed a similar sentiment to Mathis, and added that it’s good to be able to get back into shape right now. “We got a lot of new faces, just like last year,” McAfee said. “I’ve kind of learned that a lot of new faces in the locker room means you’ve got to build camaraderie quick. That’s what we’ve got going on right now. We’ve got a lot of young guys coming in. Obviously the draft picks will be in in a week. It’s just cool to see everybody again. It’s like summer break whenever you’re in school, you’re kind of ready to get back. That’s what we’ve got going on, a lot of fundamental-building stuff on the field too. So it’s good times. Also we’re getting in shape. I wasn’t able to straighten my arm for a week or two because of too many biceps. That’s the way things are going, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
New Offense Installation Going Smoothly
Last season, everyone on offense had to learn a new system. They had a new coaching staff – new everything, it seemed, and the affable Bruce Arians had brought his high-flying Pittsburgh Steeler offense with him to Indy. After just a season, Arians is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and the Colts have another new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton.
Hamilton has brought his move-the-chains, West Coast-style offense to Indianapolis, and the Colts offensive players are learning a new system yet again. According to WR Reggie Wayne, they may be learning the new system more quickly or easily than a year ago. “Not too bad. I’ve seen steeper,” Wayne said of the learning curve. “Guys, offensively, seem to be picking it up pretty fast, faster than last year it seems like. That’s good.”
For Wayne, this is an unusual experience: his third offense in as many years, even if the first of those three systems spanned an entire decade of his career. “Three in three years, yeah. I take my hats off to those guys who learn new offenses every year throughout their careers,” he said. “It definitely has given me some grey hairs but it keeps me fresh, keeps me focused. I know one thing; I won’t get tired of boredom. There’s always something new that you have to learn. It takes away from the family time but at the same time it’s pretty fun.”
Bjoern Notice: Mathis Discusses His New Teammate Werner
Robert Mathis on Bjoern Werner, who caused a stir by saying he used to play as Mathis and Freeney on Madden as a kid: “I saw a couple of stories about him saying he was 12 and 13 (when he saw Mathis on the Madden video game), so it makes me feel old. At the same time, it lets me know what I’ve done has been respected.”
Mathis on his willingness to help Werner: “Never (have a problem about) that. He’s a fellow quarterback-hater, so he’s alright with me.” Quarterback-hater. I love the idea of pass rushers who actually do not like quarterbacks.
Mathis on who he sought advice from as a rookie: “When I came in, it was Chad Bratzke. He was here and he helped me a lot. I’m that guy. He was 10 years my rookie year. I’m 11 years, Werner’s first year. I’ll be the old guy, the angel watching over him and guide him and advise him any way I can.”
It’s striking how quickly one can become the “old guy” in the NFL. Out here in the rest of the workforce, 32 year olds are still young (right?).
Kelvin Sheppard: From Starter to Erik Walden Look-alike
Kelvin Sheppard, Buffalo’s starting middle linebacker last season, who came by way of the Jerry Hughes trade, is glad to be here in Indy with his new team (a winning team, no less), 3-4 defense, and some of his old LSU teammates – even if people continue mistaking him for Erik Walden. “Yeah, I’ve gotten that a lot over the last two days,” he said of the mix-ups.
Sheppard was traded right after finding that he would be the starter again this year in Buffalo. He was a true professional about the situation and didn’t waste any time coming to Indy to join his new team. “I’m very happy to be here,” he began. “Of course the news there Monday, the starting middle linebacker calling the plays and then you get called up to the office, it was a shock to pretty much everybody in the facility. My teammates were sad, upset about it but hey, it’s the nature of the business and now being here, I hopped on a flight that night, got in town that night and went straight into the facility the following morning. By the time I stepped in the doors it’s just been all open arms, from everybody top to bottom.”
Sheppard was very candid about having the opportunity to play with some LSU guys, particularly DE Drake Nevis. “Me and Drake (Nevis) spent all our years together at LSU,” he said. “We’ve done everything together. The grind, the summer grind, the spring grind, all the way to winning National Championships, we’ve done it all. Drake, I know what he brings to the table with his work ethic, his Christian faith, everything like that, the same with me. I’m going to bring my hard hat every single day and I come to try to hoist that trophy and that sounds like exactly what they’re trying to do here.”
He is also pretty enamored with both the Colts’ 3-4 scheme (he played a 3-4 in college) and the coaching staff. “I like it because it’s very multiple,” Sheppard said of the defense. “You can do a lot more things in the 3-4 and to be honest, I just truly fell in love with this coaching staff. I love their attitude, the way they coach the game, everything.”
A few different players were asked about the Jason Collins story. If anyone asking was looking for some controversial answers, they were disappointed. If they just wanted to show a glimpse of some good guys handling that question with class, then yesterday was a win for the media.
Reggie Wayne on Collins: “I support him. I don’t know him, per se. If that was on our team, I’d definitely support him as a person first. I’d definitely have his back and then at the same time support him as a teammate. It’s definitely a step in the right direction in that aspect. I’m pretty sure it kind of took a little pressure off anybody else that wants to take that stance. So far, so good.”
Antoine Bethea on Collins: “It was great what he did being comfortable within himself to come out and say that he’s gay. Personally, it doesn’t really affect me. There will probably be some other guys that will come out and like you said, he’s the first one to do that.”
Robert Mathis on Collins: “Everybody deserves to live their life the way they want to live it, so more power to him.”
Pat McAfee on Collins: “Well I think it took a lot of courage for him to step up and make the decision to be the first guy to come out. It’s an honorable move obviously. Everybody was kind of waiting to see who was going to be the first guy. I think our generation grew up in it. I have a couple gay friends. I think a lot of guys in this locker room have gay friends so we can understand the whole thing. It’s awesome that he did it. I think there will be a chain reaction to other guys being more comfortable. I think a lot of the hate that goes towards gay folks is usually ignorance because they don’t know somebody. You might see it a little bit in the locker room, guys that have never met a gay person might say some dumb things early. But once you befriend a gay person and once somebody gets in a locker room, you become a family. That’s the way I think it will be accepted in the NFL whenever it happens, ignorance will be enlightened, and everything will be cool. I think it’s definitely a good thing. People will be comfortable with who they are. I’m definitely happy Jason Collins was the first guy to step up and do it because hopefully more guys will be able to get it off their chest, be comfortable, and just live their life. That’s what it’s all about.”
Cory Redding was asked if he had an opinion on…the NFL’s proposed HGH testing: “No. No clue. I just take care of my body the best way I know how. As far as all that goes, that’s between the league, (Roger) Goodell and everybody else, as far as what they are going to do. I just stick to my meat and potatoes, lift weights, eat spinach here and there for Popeye, go out on the field and play.”
As always, all quotes were provided by the Indianapolis Colts PR department.
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